Billionaire Donald Trump may roll on to his party’s presidential nomination next week, but not if Beau Correll and Mark Mahaffey have anything to say about it.
A Virginia lawyer, Correll is a delegate to the Republican Party convention who backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. On Monday, he won a lawsuit challenging a state law that would have required delegates to vote for Trump, who won the state’s primary.
His victory energized “dump Trump” activists in North Carolina and around the country. It also injects a little last-minute drama into an tumultuous election year that has rarely lacked it.
Though the GOP Rules Committee, meeting this week in Cleveland, ultimately decides the rules that govern the nomination process, Monday’s decision by a federal judge was seen as a victory by delegates unhappy with their presumptive nominee.
“This is like a baseball game when your pitcher is doing poorly,” Correll said Tuesday. “Are you going to leave the game, or do the right thing and try to win the game? If you’re for Donald Trump at this stage of the game, you’re essentially for a Hillary Clinton presidency.”
In North Carolina, the state GOP requires delegates to vote according to the primary results. Trump would get 29 first-ballot votes and Cruz 27. Fourteen more would be divided among other candidates. The penalty for not voting the way you’re bound: $10,000.
But the Virginia ruling reaffirmed the right of parties to draw their own rules. That pleased North Carolina party officials. “In light of the court’s decision, all party rules regarding binding and all state laws consistent with those rules are in effect,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the N.C. Republican Party.
Mahaffey, a lifelong Republican from Lee County and delegate, calls the party rule – and $10,000 fine – “a gross overreach.” He joined Free the Delegates, one of several groups that would deny Trump the nomination. How many delegates actually belong to such movements is unclear.
Mahaffey says there’s “a substantial number” in North Carolina, though he’s the only one who’s come forward publicly. Correll says “over 60 percent” of GOP delegates want someone other than Trump. And Kendal Unruh, the Colorado teacher who started Free the Delegates, says it’s more like 70 percent.
A member of the Rules Committee, she’s trying to force a floor vote on the rules that bind delegates. She says she has the 28 votes on the 112-member committee she needs to push the issue to the floor. If she does, and if it goes to the floor, things could get interesting inside Quicken Loans Arena.
Mahaffey says for him, this is not about being anti-Trump, it’s the principle of delegates being able to vote their conscience.
But all the delegate jockeying and rules skirmishes begs a question: If not Trump, who? And what do you say to the more than 13 million people who voted for him?
Correll says they haven’t gotten that far yet. If they do, they’ll be looking for someone “stepping forth in this time of darkness for the party.”